Beneath The Streets: Cozy Mystery Short Fiction By Philip Pak
Philip Pak, author of Beneath The Streets, is a retired police officer that writes short story mysteries. PLOTS, his collection of short stories, was published by Prodigy Gold Books in 2018.
Perry Glick descended the subway stairs to his underground precinct. It’s a world with no sunlight, rain or seasons. He is a NYC Transit Cop, a small department that is a division of the NYPD. The subway system in New York is the largest in the world. It consists of four hundred and sixty-nine operating stations as well as countless others that are not in use.
There are eight hundred and forty-two miles of track, on which the trains operate twenty-four/seven. The Transit Division polices it. Glick walked slowly to the end of the subway platform towards his station house. After doing this for ten years, he almost didn’t even smell the urine, or see the rats eating the garbage on the tracks. This midtown Manhattan station is usually relatively quiet, for a midnight shift. Hours earlier there would have been hundreds of people pushing and shoving each other trying to get on and off the trains; it’s amazing that there aren’t more accidents. He’d seen his share.
He walked into a florescent lit area that was a miniature version of a regular street police station. He greeted the guys waiting to start. Glick worked a rotating shift. This was his first of five 12AM to 8AM shifts. Some of the guys who worked midnights steadily, had second jobs during the day and looked it. For a single guy like Glick, one job was one too many. After changing into his uniform, he stood at attention with his colleagues. A tired slightly disheveled looking sergeant began addressing them at roll call.
Glick walked slowly to the end of the subway platform towards his station house.
“Okay men, I have some news here off the teletype. The FBI has information that there might be a terror attack of some sort here in Manhattan. They don’t give any specifics, so, be alert even though we don’t know what the hell we’re looking for. There’s a morning protest planned at City Hall. Barnes and Glick, you’re assigned to that station for crowd control at 7 AM. There will be several hundred people, passing through. Make sure your radios are charged, should you need back-up.
And one more thing: I better not find any of you guys sleeping in the porter’s broom closets again! I know some of you guys have a second front, but you’re paid to be out there protecting the public. Besides, I could only imagine what germs are on those mops. Okay, dismiss and be safe.”
Glick started out for his post. He boarded a train going Downtown to the Wall Street area, a place with a large contrast between day and night. Since it consists mostly of business with almost no residents, there are thousands of people during the day and it’s like a graveyard at night. ‘Hard to even find a place open to get a cup of coffee. The train continued rumbling downtown. Except for a handful of homeless people who make their home in the subway, the train was empty. It was a slow night as he patrolled the stations with their endless passageways. About 6 AM things started picking up. The early birds were heading to work. Pick-pockets that usually work the crowded subway cars start later in the day when the trains are more crowded.
An elderly man waiting for a train suddenly dropped to the ground. He was having a heart attack and turning blue. Glick rushed over to the man and started giving him CPR. In between working on the man, he radioed for an ambulance. Meanwhile he kept pumping the man’s chest trying to keep him alive.
The crowd that encircled them got larger and larger. This is New York City, so of course, no one offered to help. While he was in the middle of applying CPR, a woman came over to him and started asking for directions. It was obvious the guy on the ground was dying, but she kept insisting. People here live in such crowded conditions, they’ve become oblivious to humanity. Glick screamed at her to get lost. She appeared insulted and finally left. The old man died before the ambulance got there. Glick was excused from the crowd control detail and ordered to finish up handling this situation.
Glick was back at the precinct filling out the paperwork for the heart attack victim. There was some commotion with the brass. One of the midnight guys never returned from his shift. They tried contacting him by radio, but there was no answer. None of the cops had any idea where he was. Glick finished up and left for home.
The roads were empty driving to Queens–just the opposite of the heavy traffic going to Manhattan. This was the upside of Glick’s upside-down schedule. He pulled into the parking lot and entered his two- bedroom apartment. His live-in girlfriend, Sedona, was just getting up. Like himself, she worked a rotating shift. ‘Probably why nurses and cops seem to wind up together. The way their schedules fell they wouldn’t see much of each other this week. Glick was getting ready to go to sleep and Sedona was going to do some chores and get ready for her afternoon shift. Glick made himself a light bite and turned on the TV. Sedona watched with him. Clyde Simmons of WBBB was interviewing the man in charge of Glick’s precinct, Captain Gladstone. It was a minor story. Officer Larry Parks was missing. He started his shift as usual and never returned. There was no trace of him anywhere.
Sedona was curious:
“So, Perry, did he go to sleep somewhere and forget to wake up in time to get back?”
“I doubt it. Something’s fishy.”
“Maybe he had a girlfriend near his post and fell asleep there.”
“’Unlikely. Larry and I go way back. I know the guy. He loves his wife. He’s been distraught lately. ‘Just mope’s around. He’s pretty sure his wife is having an affair. He told me he confronted her about it, but she just clams up. Larry’s a very emotional guy. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did himself in.” Glick made a face. “Man, I hope not.”
Glick was getting sleepy. He pecked Sedona’s cheek and went to bed. She went about her day.
It was dusk when Glick woke. He showered and dressed. The news on the radio saddened and surprised him. Patrolman Larry Parks was found dead in a porter’s broom closet at the Rector Street subway station. Apparently, he ducked in to take a break and fell asleep. Someone opened the door and shot him in the head. Police are still investigating. This was no longer a minor story. Glick never figured on that angle. After lounging around the apartment for a couple of hours, he got in his car and drove to work.
The same disheveled sergeant was holding roll call.
“As you guys know, Larry was shot last night. I don’t know if this has anything to do with yesterday’s FBI warning or not. Be extra vigilant. Unlike our brothers in the street, we work alone. So, again, be careful, and for God’s sake, stay awake!”
Glick looked around. It looked like the guys could barely stay awake through roll call. His post tonight was the ‘Times Square’ area. It was a chilly night as he boarded the smelly vagrant-occupied train. After all a subway token is cheaper than a flop house. He arrived at his post. Glick knew the area well. First things first. Glick walked into the men’s bathroom, a known hangout for gay sex. A couple of loud rattles from his nightstick and a few shouts is all it took to empty the place out. The crowds dwindled down after the bars closed at around 3:00 AM.
Glick was friendly with the owners of the stores on the mezzanine, and was given keys to some of their shops. It was self-serving. The closer the cops are, the better. He let himself into a men’s clothing store and locked the door behind him. Glick found a spot on an empty lower shelf to take a nap. The sergeant would never catch him goofing off here.
It must have been around 4:30 when Glick opened his eyes and found himself starring at a pair of knee caps. He bolted up and both he and the burglar, who had broken into the shop, surprised each other. Glick grabbed his legs, and he and the burglar went rolling around the floor knocking over racks of clothes. They swung wildly at each other, because they couldn’t see with the darkness and clothes covering their heads. Eventually Glick won out and the burglar was cuffed. Glick radioed for a squad car to pick him up. The shop, with the pried open door, was secured and the owner notified. Glick took the prisoner to Central Booking. Because he had to be in court that morning to arraign his prisoner, he was given his next night off.
Nurse Sedona Kurtz, was finishing up her shift at Brooklyn General. She’s a divorcee who met Perry Glick quite by accident. Sedona’s ex was Sidney Kurtz, a sign twirler. That’s the guy you see standing in front of a business preforming acrobatic tricks with a big sign that advertises that business. ‘Spinning Sid’, as he was known, was the best in the business. He was to sign twirling what Liberace was to the piano. When he was out there doing his thing, there would be a line of cars circling the block just to watch him. Trouble was there was so much traffic people were unable to pull into the lot of the business he was advertising. Police were routinely called to keep the traffic there moving.
On one occasion, Sedona was in her car waiting to pick Sid up after work. That same day, Glick was sent up to the street to help with the traffic congestion. Glick happened to be standing by Sedona’s car while she was at a dead stop. They started talking. There was a mutual attraction. In that short time, they both felt as if they were kindred spirits. They agreed to meet for coffee. Her marriage with Sid was on the rocks anyway.
They eventually divorced. Sid took it hard. He started drinking. While doing a gig he snapped a muscle in his shoulder. It never healed right. Like all artists who are unable to continue using their gift, he started to drink heavier. He started dropping the signs and occasionally he would hit himself in the head. His life went spinning out of control. At one point he threatened to kill Glick when .he found out about his affair with Sedona. Because Sid was in such a pathetic state, Glick refused to press charges. One thing led to another and Sedona decided to move in with Glick.
That was several months ago. The Sid situation still saddened her. On a brighter note she was looking forward to her dinner reservation at a fancy restaurant tonight. Because of the arrest he made, Glick had the night off. For the first time in a while Sedona was more content than she had been in months. She was comfortable with Glick and she liked her job. A grumpy old man broke her train of thought.
“Hey, Nurse Kurtz, my bed pan is overflowing!”
Well, she liked her job most of the time. She emptied the bed pan and left for the day. Dinner and wine at Le Depotoir awaited.
Glick woke early the next morning. Because of his rotating shift, his sleeping habits were always a bit screwed up. Getting out of bed woke Sedona. She decided to stay awake and make an early breakfast.
“I loved the restaurant last night, Perry.”
“Yeah, it was pretty good. I can’t get over how expensive French restaurants are.”
“Well at least we have leftovers.”
“How well do snails reheat?”
She just shrugged. Glick turned on the TV. His precinct was the news story of the day once again.
“Clyde Simmons from WBBB here. Officer Zach Douglas was found dead this morning. His body was found in a dark passageway on the subway station of 23d and Lexington Ave. He appeared to have died instantly from a gunshot to the head. The body was discovered by a passenger on her way to work. Ballistics indicated the bullet that killed officer Douglas came from the same gun that killed officer Parks. Police are trying to trace the gun. It appears to be open season on killing Transit Cops. They have no further information at this time.”
“God Perry, you could be next! This is crazy.”
Glick mumbled under his breath: “Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Douglas was a sadist. I saw the way he treated people when he arrested them. He enjoyed beating them, especially when they were cuffed. I don’t know if you remember, but you met his wife, Louise, at the last police function. She tried to dress and use makeup to hide her bruises, but they were obvious.”
“Now that you mention it, I do remember.”
Glick had to go in tonight for his fourth midnight shift, so he tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. Sedona was also up for the day.
It was a dismal and chilly the day of the two policemen’s funeral. The weather heightened the gloomy mood. Officer Parks and Officer Douglas, having died in the line of duty were given a full honor guard burial. Their flag draped coffins were carried into St Pat’s church by their fellow officers, where their widows, Thelma Parks and Louise Douglas, waited in their seats. Glick was one of Parks’ pall bearers. Mayor John Linseed approached the pulpit.
He gave a moving speech, even if he did mispronounce Officer Parks’ name. The police commissioner posthumously promoted both cops to sergeant, giving the widows a bigger pension. Arch Bishop Smedley prayed over the coffins. After the services the officer’s wives and the department’s bagpipe band followed the procession to the cemetery. At the gravesite, the widows held hands to give each other strength as the coffins were lowered into the ground. The popping flash bulbs and the cold drizzle gave it a surreal feel.
Detective Harold Tully, is the lead detective handling the slain cops case. Tully was a twenty-year veteran with the last ten in homicide. This was his last case before putting his retirement papers in. Tully studied the report from ballistics. Both cops were killed with the same gun.
The gun used was a Trace Master Series 1911 Government Commander pistol, with a built-in laser. That particular gun brought to mind an arrest he made years ago. Tully arrested the drug kingpin Manuel Ruiz who at the time ruled the drug trade in Brooklyn. That was the gun he and his gang preferred. Ruiz’s personal gun was special. It had an eighteen-karat gold handle. That’s why he remembered it. Ruiz’s gun is still in the NYPD property room. He decided to go to Chambers Street in Lower Manhattan, where the property room was located, to study the weapon.
Detective Tully arrived at the Chambers Street property room. He greeted officer Ziggy, who had been there for thirty years. He wrote out his request to see the weapon that was taken from Manuel Ruiz at the time of his arrest. A half hour passed before Ziggy returned. The gun was missing. No one in the department was able to account for its whereabouts. This whole dam case was crazy.
Several days later, Officer Glick was summoned to NYPD headquarters at the request of Detective Tully. Glick had no idea why he was there.
He was brought into Tully’s office and greeted with a handshake.
“Officer Glick, I learned a long time ago not to let one’s own ego get in the way of an investigation. The two cops who were killed were in your squad. You knew them better than anyone; that’s why I want you to work with me on this case. It’s already been cleared with the brass.”
“’Glad to help. What do you want to know?”
“Have you been to the property room lately?’
“As a matter of fact, yeah. A weeks ago I made a burglary arrest, from a men’s clothing store, and dropped off the cash from the register and some gold cufflinks that were stolen. Why do you ask?”
“Do you know Ziggy?”
“Who doesn’t. He’s been there forever.”
“Too long. His bookkeeping is sloppy. There was a gun there that was similar to the gun used to kill the cops. It’s missing.”
“Do you think it was the same gun that killed the cops, Tully?
“I don’t know, but I find it odd. So, Glick, tell me what you know about Zach Douglas?”
“The guy was a sadist. I hated him.”
“You’re right. Before he went to work on the night he was killed, he beat up his wife. She drove herself to the emergency room before he left for work. She was still under observation in the hospital when she was told of her husband’s death.”
“I’m not surprised.”
“I understand Glick, that you dated Louise before her marriage to Douglas.”
“That’s true. I liked her a lot, but the chemistry just wasn’t there. She seemed kind of cold.”
“That’s interesting. How long did you know Larry Parks?”
“We went to high school together.”
“Did you hate him also?”
“Is this a God-damn interrogation, Tully?”
“Not at all, Glick. Relax, ‘just trying to get some background. What do you know about Parks?”
“Well, he was pretty depressed the last few months. He told me that he suspected his wife was having an affair. He had no idea who the guy was. You know, you work these weird hours and the wives get lonely.”
“Tell me about it. I’m divorced myself. Here’s what I’d like you to do, Glick. Since you’re familiar with Thelma Parks, I’d like you to do surveillance at the Parks residence. Record who comes and goes. If you see a guy who you’ve never seen before, let us know. I’d like to talk to him.”
“You don’t suspect Thelma?”
“I try to cover all the bases. I checked her whereabouts on the night of her husband’s murder, she was at her mother’s in Staten Island. There were at least ten people who saw her there. No, she’s not a suspect.”
“When do you want me to start, Tully?”
As Glick left, he thought to himself, Tully has a way of making everyone he speaks to feel like a suspect.
Glick arrived at his apartment to find Sedona and ‘Spinning Sid’ there. Sid looked like he finally got himself together. He was sober and dressed well. Sedona had an uncomfortable look on her face.
“Perry, you’re a really nice guy, but I’m afraid I still have a thing for Sid. We’ve been communicating, and I think we’d like to give our marriage another whirl. I’m so, so sorry. Sid opened up a Twirling Academy and I think I’m going to quit nursing to be part of it. I don’t know if it’s Sid, or the last bed pan I emptied, or the last pool of vomit I moped up, or the last crap I scraped…”
“Okay, okay Sedona, I get it.”
“What I’m saying is, I would like to give our marriage another spin. I hope you understand.”
What could Glick say? So he didn’t say anything. After an awkward few minutes of silently staring at each other, Sedona and Sid left. Glick just stood there taking it all in. He walked over to the fridge for a beer. When he opened it, he thought he saw one of the leftover snails move. He grabbed a beer.
This was Glick’s second week of surveillance of the Parks residence. There had been a steady stream of friends and family, nothing unusual. He tried to be more invisible this week. Last week on his second day of surveillance, Thelma came out and brought him a cup of coffee. This time he was parked further away, hoping to be less visible.
The days dragged. He was glad this wasn’t his full time job. Through his binoculars he watched as Thelma walked out of her house and into her car. Glick followed. After forty minutes of driving, she parked in front of a hotel. She walked towards the entrance and met a man. They stopped to talk. Glick got out his binoculars. The man she was talking to was ‘Spinning Sid.’ Thelma and Sid walked into the hotel together. Glick was perplexed. Was that who Thelma was having an affair with? Didn’t make sense, he just got back with Sedona. Was Sid the assassin?
He was once threatened by Sid when Sedona left him, but Glick never took him seriously. Glick parked the car and entered the building twenty minutes behind the two. He approached the desk clerk, flashed his tin, and asked what room Sid Kurtz was in. The clerk pointed to a doorway down the hall. Glick walked to the door and hesitated. He drew his gun and readied himself. Apparently, Sid was more dangerous than he thought. Glick burst in.
There were about twenty perspiring women in leotards, spinning signs. Sid and Sedona were leading the group. The posters on the wall read, spinning is the new workout craze. Swinging the sign around was great for the arms and jumping and turning was good for the legs. Thelma was one of the women working out. Apparently, she came to join the class. Everyone in the room stopped and stared at him. After an awkward few seconds, Glick backed out the door and left. As far as he was concerned, the day was over.
The phone woke Glick the next morning; it was Detective Tully.
“Don’t worry about doing surveillance today, the case is solved.”
“Wow, that was fast. How’d it go down?”
“We don’t say that anymore, Glick. The movie cops use to say that in the 70’s”
“Okay, how did it unfold?”
“Ballistics reported that both cops were killed by the same gun. The type of gun used was the same as the gun stolen from the property room. After checking records, I found out that officer Douglas spent a month in the property room on light duty. He broke a knuckle beating up a prisoner. The gun was valuable and officer Ziggy’s bookkeeping sucked. Douglas was dirty, so I figured there was a chance he stole the gun.”
“Are you saying that Douglas shot Parks then killed himself?”
“No. I began to wonder if Douglas stole the gun, and if he did, he probably took it home. Zach and Louise Douglas are the only two people in that household. I started to suspect that somehow Louise might know something she’s not telling us.”
“You know as well as I do Tully, Louise had an airtight alibi.”
“That’s what threw me. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Louise did have an air tight alibi when her husband was killed, but she didn’t have one when Larry Parks was shot.”
“Are you suggesting Louise is a murderer? Why would Louise kill Parks? He never did anything to her.”
“Remember your buddy Parks suspected his wife Thelma was having an affair? Well, she was having an affair with Louise Douglas. Thelma had an air tight alibi when her husband was killed, but she didn’t have one when Zach Douglas was murdered, and vice versa with Louise.”
“I’m confused, Tully. So, your saying they killed each other’s husbands?”
“Exactly! Both cops had large insurance policies. With the insurance and a generous widow’s pension, they would be quite comfortable. Since Douglas was the last one shot, I got a search warrant for Thelma Parks’ home. We found the Ruiz gun, and ballistics confirmed that it was the murder weapon. Lucky for us, she never bothered to get rid of it. I read your reports on who came and went to Thelma Parks’ place. You were looking for a boyfriend, so you didn’t pay any attention to Louise Douglas’ visits. They spent a lot of time together.
After we picked them up for questioning, Louise was the one who broke down and confessed. They had been having an affair for quite some time. Louise stayed with her husband Zach because she was unable to support herself. But it got to the point when she couldn’t take the beatings anymore, and that’s when Thelma and Louise planned the murders. They knew where their husbands were working the night they killed them. The two guys never saw it coming. The plan was to wait a couple of months, and then move to a different state and start a new life together. Well, that wraps it up. By the way, you looked like you were putting on a little weight the last time I saw you. Maybe you should take one of those spinning sign classes. Have a nice day, Glick.”
Tully hung up.
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